Undergraduate Thesis Persona-based Journey Mapping: An Empathy-based Business Development Tool for New Social Entrepreneurs

Open Access
Ortbal, Kathryn Joyce
Area of Honors:
Bachelor of Philosophy
Bachelor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Khanjan Mehta, Thesis Supervisor
  • Richard Jon Stoller, Honors Advisor
  • Social Entrepreneurship
  • Business Development
  • Agricultural Technology
  • Personas
  • Journey Mapping
  • Stakeholders
Nearly one in four people living in Sub-Saharan Africa suffers from chronic undernourishment, and despite the many great successes of individual nations over the last two decades, the total number of hungry has grown from 170 million to 234 million. Accelerating population growth, desertification, climate change, urbanization, and rising food prices all continue to challenge food value chains (FAO, 2012) (Lappé et al., 2013). The Millennium Development Goals, among other declarations, have presented a clear call to action to create new programs, policies, and technologies capable of reducing the burden of hunger on the continent’s population—most of whom live in rural areas and depend on agriculture for their livelihoods. The call to action is not just limited to governments and policy makers; it encourages the private sector to engage. With increased interest and investment from the private sector, it is possible to develop new agricultural technologies that strengthen food value chains (FVCs) while reducing hunger and improving livelihoods. Although social entrepreneurs can a play a larger role in this journey from subsistence to sustainability, they must overcome a wide range of challenges. One of the most daunting challenges faced by new social entrepreneurs in the agricultural technology space is that they are often engaged in the development of products for contexts dramatically different from their own. Confronted by drastically different cultures, financial systems, supply chains, and customer needs, they often have difficulty aligning their value propositions to the demands of those they seek to empower. Additionally, many promising social ventures fail because they cannot develop appropriate market penetration strategies and cannot get their product/service into the hands of the people it was designed for. Social entrepreneurship students and new entrepreneurs need tools that allow them to address the complexities of new contexts and stakeholders early in the planning process in order to avoid significant downstream costs. Persona-based stakeholder journey mapping, the empathy-based business development tool discussed in this paper, gives social entrepreneurship students and new social entrepreneurs a dynamic and agile way to generate the contextual insight needed to develop successful agricultural technologies. Based on traditional customer journey mapping, persona-based stakeholder journey mapping expands its scope beyond customers to include all implicated stakeholders and the static and dynamic variables that impact their interactions with a venture. Stakeholder journey mapping directly facilitates: (1) the visualization of a venture’s stakeholders and potential end-users, (2) the understanding of the abiotic stressors and contextual elements that impact the stakeholders’ decision making and purchasing habits, (3) the definition of a venture’s possible touchpoints, (4) the prediction of pain-points and opportunity-points, and (5) the development of action strategies to avoid failure. Ultimately, reflection into the insights generated directly through mapping will enable social entrepreneurs to: (1) articulate clear value propositions for each addressable market segment and stakeholder, and (2) identify market penetration and partnership strategies.